The America's Cup on tour in Newport, RI 7/1/2010

When I am asked how I make my living I say I sell ideas. As a freelance journalist, if I discover a great tantalizing idea for story and I find a publication where the readership would appreciate that idea (and I can get the editor to agree that it is a good fit), I have a job. Basically I am constantly on the lookout for interesting ideas and thinking about where they would be best suited for publication. For me, this has ranged from stories on automotive parts, to public transportation, to coastal septic systems and, of course, anything having to do with yachting.

Since finishing up the Bermuda Race last month, I have been catching up on my deadlines and proposal writing. And as I search for ideas to write about, I am surrounded by inspiration here on little Aquidneck Island. The America’s Cup trophy, the oldest trophy in sports I believe, was on tour and brought to downtown Newport where it was once vied for from the 1930s until 1983. What a sight. Former Cup crews with their team shirts filled Bannister’s Wharf to see old friends and the ornate silver tower that drove them so hard. The Governor of Rhode Island was on hand to let all know the state is working hard to bring the races back here, though a Request for Proposal for the event has yet to be released.

Standing happily on the sidelines was David Ray, the owner of Bannister’s Wharf. David has a standing deal with Ted Turner’s winning crew from the 1977 Cup defender Courageous where they drink for free at the Candy Store, his famed bar on the wharf. He was heartened to have the trophy there again. “I haven’t seen the Cup since it was in New Zealand,” he said, almost surprised it had been that long. “I saw it just 40 minutes after the maori protester destroyed it. She looks a lot better now.”

Shipwright Hugh Maxwell trimming Silent Maid's stem

I am working on a piece about the prospects of the next America’s Cup but driving home from that spectacle I saw a reminder of the next big match race in the area, the match up between the Barnegatt Bay cat boat Silent Maid and the Buzzards Bay, C.C. Hanley-designed Kathleen. The two were built recently to  1920s and late 1800s designs respectively and will be match racing in the Cat Boat Association‘s rendezvous throughout the summer in New England. The two types only met once, almost exactly 100 years ago, in a race. I believe the Cape Codder won, but these two are expected to have a cracking series.

I saw Hugh Maxwell, of Newport Yacht Joinery, detailing Silent Maid‘s stem, taking off the corners and making more of a “v” entry. Maybe this will help, though the designs are quite different: Maid sailing a stayed mast and narrower beam, and Kathleen having a more traditional cat boat rig, just a forestay on a sprit, and wider.

I am also following this series as a writer. This may seem trite, but there in lies the beauty of being a freelance writer. To anyone who enjoys sport, history and rivalries, this is a wonderful story idea. It may not be the America’s Cup, but it is interesting, many different types of people can appreciate the angle, and I have a job.